Fri, Jul 12, 2013 - Page 3 News List

Video at natural fire vents sparks heated debate on Internet

FINGER-POINTING:Local netizens berated tourists for entering restricted areas and playing with fire. One responded that Taiwanese do the same

By Tsai Chung-hsien and Jason Pan  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Hot debate has gone around the online community after a group of Hong Kong tourists posted videos of themselves cooking food and playing with fireworks in parts of Kenting National Park (墾丁國家公園) where such activities are prohibited.

The controversy arose because at the Chuhuo Natural Fire scenic area, where the activities took place, the lines are often blurred between what is forbidden and what is allowed, and enforcement by local authorities is lax.

Anyone visiting the Chuhuo Natural Fire scenic area, a site with open vents of fire fed by natural underground gases, will notice the prominent displays of “do not enter” signs and warnings against prohibited activities.

Despite these, vendors openly sell merchandise in the restricted areas and it is common to see tourists setting off fireworks at night.

The controversy has been reignited after a video posted by Hong Kong tourists on YouTube was widely circulated. The video was titled “Visit to Kenting — Part 4. To Chuhuo Natural Fire scenic area.”

The video showed a group of people using the natural gas fire vents to cook popcorn and light sparkler sticks and fireworks.

A number of Taiwanese netizens chastised the visitors for breaking national park regulations, asking: “Did you think the ‘do not enter’ sign meant ‘welcome, please enter’?”

“This behavior damages Taiwan’s environment, yet they still dared to post the video for everyone to see,” one person wrote. “Before touring Kenting National Park, visitors should do their homework first.”

However, Hong Kong netizens fought back.

“Do all Taiwanese only stand outside the fire vent area? They all did the same thing, entering the fire vent area and lighting fireworks there,” one wrote. “If you do not wish to see outsiders do these things, then the locals, Taiwanese, should set an example.”

On a site visit this week, reporters did find a number of vendors going into the restricted zone to roast eggs over the fire vents and selling the cooked eggs when tourists approached.

It was observed during the half-hour period that no Taiwanese bought roasted eggs from the vendors.

When interviewed, head of Kenting National Park Headquarters Chen Chen-jung (陳貞蓉) said her office is planning to install wooden walkways around the natural gas fire vents and to close off the roads into the scenic park to prevent entry by vendors and local residents.

“These few vendors have been selling roasted eggs and popcorn in the area. When they see police coming, they play hide-and-seek. We will ask the police units of Kenting National Park to beef up their patrol and enforcement,” Chen said.

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